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An inspirational article that speaks a lot to what Detroit Boyz Rock wants to address

How one Chicago principal is leaning on data to help black boys

Test scores were rising at Fuller Elementary School when Marilyn McCottrell took over in 2016. Yet troubling trends loomed behind the numbers.

“A lot of growth has been made,” said McCottrell, Fuller’s third principal in six years. “But that growth is not equal among students.”

She’s talking about black boys.

Black girls had driven most of Fuller’s academic improvement since the 2012-13 school year, when Chicago Public Schools handed management of the Bronzeville school over to the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership, which replaced the staff and principal in a turnaround effort. Black boys had improved much slower. They got most of the school’s Ds and Fs, and were much less likely than girls to meet or approach expectations for college readiness on state tests.

PARCC Scores

Last school year, McCottrell and her staff crunched the data and made changes at Fuller to shorten the gaps between boys and girls. The stakes are high. Black boys, especially those from low-income households, are more prone than their sisters to falling behind in school and running into the juvenile criminal justice system. As adults, they are more likely to be arrested, imprisoned, or chronically unemployed. McCottrell believes what Fuller did, starting with painstakingly crunching data at the school, classroom and individual levels, could help other schools do better for black boys.

But she wants to be clear about something: Black boys don’t need to be “saved.”

“They need to be respected and appreciated for the differences and the unique gifts that they bring to the educational experience,” she said.

Black boys

Fuller Elementary School students (from left)Tyrese Robinson-Guy, Terrell Johnson, and Jasean Waters at a community garden in Bronzeville.

Fuller, a Level 1 school in good standing, occupies the corner of St. Lawrence Avenue and 42nd Street in Bronzeville. Nearly all of its 370 students are black and come from economically disadvantaged households. About half of the teachers are white, and about half are African-American. When CPS turned over management of Fuller, it was seeking to lift up a school that had been on academic probation five consecutive years. Fuller still has far to go. In 2017, only 10 percent of Fuller students were ready for the next level compared to 26 percent across the school district and 34 percent across the state. Growth has been above average, but, as McCottrell said, that growth hasn’t been equal.
PARCC Scores

Last August, McCottrell arrived at Fuller for a training session for teachers bearing handouts packed with data on black boys’ grades and test scores. Middle school reading teacher Arlicia McClain was shocked to see the stark disparities.

“It made me buck up and say I need to talk to these students,” she said. “I need to know what is going on that is preventing them from improving. Is it me? Is it something going on with them individually? Is it something they are missing?”

Girls’ math scores had increased by 193 percent compared with 90 percent for boys since the turnaround effort began in the 2012-13 school year. The gender performance gap was even more striking in reading, where black girls’ scores jumped 140 percent compared with 31 percent for boys.

As McClain and other teachers reflected on the numbers, they recounted their  own experiences in the classroom. For example, they could all name which students were removed from class the most for disciplinary reasons, and nearly all were black boys.

Arlicia McClain

Fuller Elementary School teacher Arlicia McClain.

McClain realized she tended to call on black girls more in class.

McClain, African-American herself, wondered if she was favoring girls or failing to challenge boys enough, and how that could affect their learning. She resolved to push black boys more during her second year at Fuller.

She also left the session with another big take-away: A lot of boys who wouldn’t participate in classroom-wide sessions engaged more in small groups. Wedding the data to her realizations has helped the young teacher come up with tailored approaches for struggling students.

“Look at them as individuals who want to learn, but who sometimes need the individualized attention to do that,” McClain said. “If you really are about the progression of black youth, you’re going to need to be individual-focused, and you’re going to need the data to do it.”

In the 2016-17 school year, for the subjects of English language arts and math, about 70 percent of all Ds and Fs at Fuller went to black boys.

In the first quarter of last school year, McCottrell and her staff revised Fuller’s grading policies in hopes of addressing the disparity.

They switched to what McCottrell called “a more equitable grading scale,” where the lowest a student could score is a 50, adopted a “no-opt out policy” for homework, so children who failed to turn in their homework by deadline wouldn’t automatically get a zero and had to make up assignments, and allowed students to redo certain parts of failed tests and quizzes after reteaching.

By the end of the first quarter, the numbers of Ds and Fs had decreased by nearly half.

But black boys were still getting about the same percent of them as before.

So McCottrell decided to go in for a closer look.

“The numbers only tell part of the story,” she said.

McCottrell ate with boys in the lunchroom. She played flag football with them at recess. She sat with them in class, assisted their teachers, and taught her own lessons across grades and subjects.

She talked to the boys — and listened.

Jasean Waters, a black boy

Jasean Waters, 13, said he found it hard to focus on his school work.

Some distractions come from inside the classroom, like the bullies Jasean’s run into. Other distractions live in the world outside Fuller, like the gun violence whose victims are overwhelmingly black males.

“It’s a big struggle for us,” he said. “There’s a lot of people dying around here, so we gotta watch our backs, and when we’re walking home we feel like we’re unsafe, so we just focus on us being safe. It’s hard to focus on school.”

Boredom is another issue. Jasean said that he does well in math, but struggles sometimes with reading, and that his interest wanes with the lack of characters and authors he can relate to in school texts. That sounded familiar to McCottrell.  When she spoke with boys, she heard that school amounted to a seven-hour suppression of their personalities, interests, and voices — especially in reading and English classes, where black voices and black writers were missing.

“When kids have to pick a book for independent reading, they don’t relate to the characters in those classroom libraries,” she said. “It’s really hard coming to a class everyday when nothing relates to you.”

Parcc Scores

McCottrell decided to teach an optional African-American literature class every Friday during a weekly “intervention time” for students needing help in reading and math  About 17 boys showed up on the first day and read excerpts from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” whose protagonist proclaims, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

McCottrell said many of the boys could expertly analyze the Harlem Renaissance classic, because they related to the idea of not being heard, seen, or understood for who they really are. The students offered examples like the portrayal of black men in the media.

“Many of them were saying things like, ‘I’m not a gangbanger, but this is what people think I am, because I’m dark or because I’m tall,’” she said. “They talked about it in the context of their teachers not knowing who they are.”

The class soon doubled as word of mouth drew others in. Jasean, a C student at the start of the class, joined them. He said he learned things he hadn’t been introduced to before. He read about segregation, speeches by Martin Luther King, and books like “Bud, Not Buddy,” about a 10-year-old black orphan during the Great Depression.

He said he rededicated himself to doing 100 minutes of reading a night and by the end of last school year earned an A in reading. He said he raises his hand to ask and answer questions in class more.

“It feels good,” he said.

Jasean’s grandmother, local school council member Regina Waters, praised McCottrell’s hands-on approach with students and her efforts to build one-on-one relationships with the boys.

“She’s upfront with the kids, and she knows all the kids by name which is unusual in the short time she’s been there,” Waters said.

McCottrell

Fuller’s boys closed the gap with girls in several ways over last school year.

They went from getting 70 percent of the Ds and Fs in English and math to 60 percent. In 2016-17, 46 percent of boys compared with 55 percent of girls were on track, meaning they earned a C or higher in reading and math and had an attendance rate of at least 95 percent. In 2017-18, the percentage of boys on track increased by 23 percentage points compared to 19 points for girls. But sitting in her office at Fuller one day earlier this summer, McCottrell admitted something about her efforts for black boys.

“Nothing is solved,” she said.

Despite some progress last school year, when the 2018-19 school year starts, black boys at Fuller will still lag behind black girls. Forces outside of education like poverty, mass incarceration, and racial discrimination will continue to disadvantage black youth in ways that manifest in classrooms, where they land heaviest on black boys.

The odds aren’t yet even for black boys at McCottrell’s school, or at most schools across America. However, McCottrell believes that educators learned a lot that they can build on down the line.

Next year, McCottrell said she’s urging teachers to incorporate more of the black experience and black voices into lesson plans and to increase small-group instruction.

Teachers are having more data conferences with McCottrell and with each other to guide instruction and target specific students’ needs. McCottrell is also promoting more social-emotional learning techniques and restorative practices rather than punitive approaches to discipline, and incorporating cultural awareness and bias training into teachers’ professional development.

Marlene Aponte, the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s director of coaching,  said that in some ways Fuller’s story resembles other schools’ in the years after turnarounds. After focusing on rigorous instruction and ambitious growth targets,“we’re starting to really hone in on some of the pieces that we may have overlooked, such as gender bias, gender equity, access in equity,” she said.

McCottrell wants her boys to have the tools to succeed. She knows there are some issues that her school won’t be able to solve.

But it’s a start.


Guest Column: Suicide is not inevitable

 

Gigi Colombini

Gigi Colombini

By Gigi Colombini, Special to Digital First Media

http://www.theoaklandpress.com/opinion/20180622/guest-column-suicide-is-not-inevitable

POSTED: 06/22/18, 5:19 PM EDT
When iconic individuals like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain end their own lives, we have to believe there was something so profoundly unhelpable about their situations that they believed suicide was the tragic only option.

As a clinical social worker with an expertise in suicide prevention, I can assure you, there is nothing inevitable about suicide. The biggest problem we face is a lack of education and understanding, even in the medical community, of what this 10th leading cause of death in America is really all about. This leaves almost everyone afraid to step in and turn the tide.

Family medicine physicians, who prescribe about 80 percent of psychiatric medications, undergo less than a day of suicide prevention training. Emergency Room docs are not required to have any. More people die by suicide than homicide. More people die by suicide than in auto accidents. The national suicide rate is 13.9 for 100,000, and recent studies show that 54 percent of those who die by suicide did not have a diagnosed mental illness.

But this is not a story of despair. If anything, we need to rewrite the story on suicide to one of hope because suicide is not inevitable.

Of the 14 people out of 100,000 who die by suicide, 999,986 find a way to endure painful struggles.

Somehow, we have come to believe that if someone is really suicidal, there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Shame often prevents people from sharing feelings, from telling someone, I’m thinking about ending it all. When we experience a spate of suicides in close proximity like we did recently, we feel powerless about the possibility of preventing these untimely deaths.

The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide suggests that the likelihood of suicide increases if three things are present in someone’s life: feeling as if they are a burden to others, social isolation or not belonging to a community, and an ability to make it happen. (More than half of all suicides are completed with a firearm!)

Having someone to literally talk you off the ledge helps immensely. A person who is suicidal does not really want to die; they just want the pain they are experiencing to stop.

The pain is so intense it makes it difficult to see solutions to their problems. Talking about it can help them see the possibility of enduring pain with the support of loved ones, community and connections.

In the U.S., the highest rate of suicide occurs among white men. During the economic downturn, we saw this happen because so many men became powerless to support their families. Unaccustomed to sharing feelings, many felt isolated and alone. We think suicide happens when you’re so despondent, you can’t leave the house. Suicide can occur from one pivotal situation that leads to despair.

I don’t know what Anthony Bourdain’s circumstances were, but I remember how devastating it was when we lost Robin Williams because people of all ages loved him. Sometimes, when men grow older, they feel a loss of quality of life; often they no longer feel valued after leaving the workplace.

Women are different. While our work is important to us, we are often connected to family and friends, and we talk about feelings.

When a famous person dies by suicide, people are doubly perplexed, thinking, they had everything; how could they do this? But rich and famous does not equal happy.

Happiness comes from connection, purpose, doing what you love. There is truth to the notion that it’s lonely at the top; achieving fame, fortune and renown can leave a person feeling alone and misunderstood.

We must change our conversation about suicide to one of hopefulness, where we all get involved in turning the tide. Even the language must change — a person does not “commit” suicide like they “commit” a crime or a sin. They die, tragically, and preventably.

When someone is grieving or struggling, be the one to start the conversation. Ask, “have you had thoughts of suicide?” And if they say, “Not really,” know that answer may actually mean “yes.” These simple conversations can save many lives.

Suicide is not inevitable. Even when someone thinks it is the answer, there is time to redirect thoughts. We simply have to care. We mustn’t shy away from getting involved.

As our society grows increasingly distant, we must double-down on connection and concern. We must “meddle” in order to make people believe they matter. Talking is the path to help.

Suicide is highly preventable. We must arm health care practitioners, educators, and community members with the tools to spot real risk, and then provide effective treatment to heal it.

Gigi Colombini, LMSW, is a psychotherapist and suicidologist with the Institute for Hope and Human Flourishing in Birmingham.


 

The Voice, The View, The Actions

By Robert Cooper

There is couple of ways  of communicating  based on our view of the future. Be it that the view is one of gloom and doom or the more upbeat I’ll rescue you, it’s pervasive throughout cultures , and the American culture is no different. These views and the actions that come out of those views affect our leadership style, our relationship to money, and our relationship to each other – everything.

My concern began as a complaint about the manner my wife, Sam, speaks to me to have me take some action she wants me to take. The manner of speaking caught my attention because I thought I had to figure out that she wasn’t just reporting or complaining, she wanted me to take action and do something about the situation, though the speaking never sounded, to me, like a request or command. Even when the speaking sounded like a question – did you put this here—it wasn’t a question seeking a yes or no answer or information. It sounded like a complaint or upset to be avoided.

Whenever I said anything about the manner of speaking and ask what do you want me to do, instantly my wife would be upset. The response would be along the lines of “you want me to talk the way you want me to talk” ”I’ll just shut up.” Begrudgingly, I’d take responsibility for the upset and restore our relationship.

I am fascinated with language and language use. It’s like a toy for me. My accepting responsibility for the interaction didn’t take away my puzzling over the stable, consistent and predictable manner that my wife spoke , and me wondering to myself  why do I have to translate what she’s saying.

If she were speaking Japanese, I could easily accept the problem of understanding, translating, and taking the requested action. However, we were speaking English and my wife often wondered out loud “why don’t you understand me.”

I had several assumptions about why I didn’t understand her or didn’t, from her manner of speaking, get what action was being called for. I grew up in a cultural context where that type of unclear speaking could result in a heated I didn’t tell you to do that or I didn’t say that on one end and on the other result in a life or death situation.

Clearly the interactions between my wife and I do not provoke a life or death situation. Yet, all the other responses apply. Sam and I can be the only two people in the house for weeks at a time. Then I’d hear, “Are these your shoes sitting here?” “Who left the door open [unlocked]?” “Who ate my piece of fish?” “I’m gonna break my neck on these shoes.”

To bring levity to some of the questions, reports like your socks are on the table, I created a roommate early in our marriage. The roommate is The Ghost. To some of the questions and reports I’d answer The Ghost did it or I don’t know. I know I didn’t do whatever it was, and since Sam was asking she didn’t do it. I had to be the Ghost.

I’m southern and Sam’s dad is southern. So I gave the speaking manner a southern interpretation.  Sometimes I attributed the manner of “don’t be direct”, “ don’t ask for anything”, “don’t show your intention”, “don’t give a direct command” as a carryover from the south, where the hiding of intentions, hiding of thought, the hiding of knowing, and the removal of self when speaking was thought to provide intergroup safety.

Lately, my interpretation has changed. Whenever Sam says something like “I’m gonna break my neck on this bag sitting here”, I respond you are being apocalyptic.

I got it. Whenever Sam forecasted the danger she was in, someone, but not her, was supposed to do something about it.  I wanted to stop turning the issue over to The Ghost. I became curious and began to look for where I might have the same manner of speaking that I have been focused on with Sam. I looked at my piles of books and papers on the floor, on the dinging and kitchen tables and coffee table. Now that’s something I could create gloom and gloom about and I don’t.

Well, if Sam says a friend is dropping by, then I want to get into action and have the house look nice for the visitor. From the same west Asian and western traditions that I borrowed apocalyptic as the way of speaking for Sam, I borrowed messianic for myself.

Messianic and apocalyptic are most often used in religious contexts. The intention of this reflection, inquiry and writing is not to be religious, though for some it may be. I’m creating a mirror, a lens, and a set of practices to see ourselves not only individually, but also collectively at a cultural level.

To be Continued

A Testimonial to David Abramson: A True Original

On Thursday March 23rd 2017 the Association for Youth Empowerment (AYE) lost one of its warriors and founders: David Abramson.

David was a powerful, compelling individual who we relied on for support, for charisma, and for innovation. He was our “bridge” to people, to communities and to the world.

We admire him for his tenacious behavior, hyperactive determination and commitment to all people.

We are in awe of his unceasing commitment to prosperity and love for everyone.

We acknowledge him for his tireless dedication to AYE’s mission of partnering with community members and organizations who share a common goal of eliminating social oppression and fostering respect, acceptance and compassion in our schools, families and communities.

Even though David is no longer with us in physical form, we are committed that his spirit will live on through the work he started.

David A: We love you, we honor you and will miss you!

Perhaps no one on the board was as close to David as our Board President: Robert Cooper. Below are his words he delivered at David’s Funeral which summarize more completely what he meant to all of us.

Shalom

I am Robert Cooper: A retired teacher who introduced Japanese language studies to Detroit Public Schools in 1986.

I am the president of association of youth empowerment (aye).

Aye sponsors initiatives such as :

  • Bridging 8 Mile
  • Prosperity year
  • Community leadership and development
  • Dave Ramsey’s financial peace
  • Detroit Boyz Rocks
  • Empowerment zone in hazel park high school
  • Community challenge day
  • Landmark forum and curriculum for living
  • Connection central, which is a social gathering and spontaneous jam session

Recently:

  • Bridging 23 between Ann arbor and Ypsilanti
  • The David and Robert show: live and in living color

David had his hands and heart on the pulse of all of these initiatives.

David suddenly died at the peak of his enthusiasm for life; at the peak of his love for friends, family, faith, education, politics, power and contribution and prosperity. That left people talking and left me wondering:

Can I do a translation of someone’s life that left some people saying:

  • He’s a butt head. But every team worth its salt needs a butt head.
  • He will work a mule into the ground
  • Some people are like classical music. David is like jazz.
  • He hated poverty.
  • He’s as tenacious as bark on a tree.
  • He’s a huge provider and had your back.
  • He’s a boomer; he stood ready to kick the door in on poverty, social division and hatred.

David, If I may do the honor one more time and honor your request for me to translate what you have been saying.

Looking around this sanctuary

You fulfilled:

  • God First
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • The highest form of giving is to give someone a job.
  • The tongue in your mouth and the tongue in your shoe are together and pointing in the same direction.
  • Your relationships is your wealth, your prosperity.
  • W.E.B Dubois once said “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line”. This Sanctuary shows what one person can do in their own life to erase the lines of love, gender, ethnicity, thinking, spirituality, class and so on.

David I said all of that to say: I love you. You are my brother. Your work lives through me.

Thank you

Robert cooper 3/27/17


Thanks to Yazaki North America

Greetings,

The board of the Association for Youth Empowerment (AYE) would like to thank and acknowledge Yazaki North America for their support of the April 12th Empowerment Zone Initiative with the topic: Breaking the Silence.

We were honored by your presence and we appreciate the support that Yazaki has shown to support AYE’s mission, which is to partner with community members and organizations who share a common goal of eliminating social oppression and fostering respect, acceptance and compassion in our schools and communities.

The intention of the event was for the kids to understand why “Breaking the Silence” is so important and also that they know that child abuse happens in all levels of society (rich and poor), any age and both boys and girls are abused.

The event met its intent, was very well attended and all had a great time that was both rewarding and fun! The support meant a lot as the kids were aware that they have the support of the community and that the community that is available to them is broader and bigger than what they see every day.

Specifically, we would like to thank the following people from Yazaki North America who came out to spend time with the young people:

  • Gabrielle Collier
  • Dennis Maxwell
  • Andrew Romain
  • Divya Chadha
  • Nawal Denard
  • Stacey Cole

Yazaki Support Pic

Thanks so very much again and we look forward to partnering with Yazaki North America again in the future.

Thanks Again from the AYE Board!

  • Robert Cooper – President
  • Jeff Gabrielson – Vice President
  • Roderic Scott – Treasurer
  • Jennifer Young, Secretary
  • David Abramson – Board Member
  • Charles C. Primas – Board Member

AYE Seeking Volunteer Assistance

Dear AYE Friends,

Thanks to the active participation of our AYE community, we’re growing our programs, projects and activities at breakneck speeds – through Community Challenge Days, Prosperity Year Gatherings, Dave Ramsey’s Core Financial Wellness classes and other transformational growth and development programs. To fully make the opportunity and possibility of our work available to our metro Detroit community, we’re seeking your assistance.

The Association for Youth Empowerment is looking for part-time volunteer assistance with organizing and tracking our many projects and activities. The commitment you make is to getting more out of it than you put into it.

To learn more about this training and development opportunity, please contact AYE Board President, Robert Cooper, at (313) 510-3770.

Best regards,

Jennifer

AYE Board Secretary

AYE is dedicated to challenging and empowering young people to create the Beloved Community. We partner with community leaders and organizations who share a common purpose of recognizing social oppression and fostering respect, acceptance and compassion in our families, schools and communities.

 

aye logo sunburst (1)


AYE Community Potluck February 13th 2015

 

 

Hello Friends and Family of AYE,

You’re invited to join friends and family of the Association for Youth Empowerment for a community potluck on Friday, Feb. 13th. Our Community Potluck is an occasion for us to to come together and share joys, challenges, music making and whatever else evolves!

All are welcome – young and old alike. Bring yourself, a friend, a neighbor, a dish to share, an instrument or a song to perform.

AYE Community Potluck

Friday, Feb. 13

6:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Bushnell Congregational Church

1500 Southfield Fwy, Detroit, MI 48223
AYE Community Potluck

 

 


The Red Door (A cross-cultural experience) by Robert Cooper

The Red Door

 

Originally Posted on January 11, 2012

Traveling the world, I can expect to have eye opening cross–cultural experiences. But to have such an experience in my own backyard – in downtown Detroit – that’s a different story.

On December 17, 2011, my 14 year old son, Kwesi, and I attended service at the Downtown Synagogue, along with three or four other African Americans. Every once in a while we could hear a word or two: Kiddush, adonai, and some names. We didn’t know the meaning. We just followed the directives, “now we are going to page 97.” We did that for over an hour. I recognize Hebrew when I see it. I just can’t read a single letter.

When the Big Scroll was taken from behind some curtains and, later, walked through the congregation, Kwesi encouraged me to kiss it and touch it like the congregants who wore yarmulkes and prayer shawls. I touched it, after kissing my hand first. I probably would have kissed the Big Scroll, if I didn’t have a couple of people to reach over.

Before the service ended, the smell of food, good food, wafted into the sanctuary. I wanted Marti to get through his explanations to us special guests, so that I could join the food.

I got to the food. To my surprise no candles were lit. Everyone had braided bread and wine or juice. I should have had juice or braided bread before the wine. I managed. I don’t know what we were talking about. One of the African–American ladies in my group asked if I was Jewish, because I was wearing the black silken skull cap. I responded, “No. But I didn’t know there were so many black Jews in Detroit.” There were two or three black men and women there who were fully engaged in the Hebrew Service and the meal prayer. She responded, “Neither did I.” We went back to our delicious meatless dishes.

As I exited the Red Door, a small half cylinder, tacked to the door frame, caught my eye. I thought, “I’ve seen these painted over in doorways around Detroit.” Our group, along with Rabbi Dorit, who invited us to the synagogue, proceeded to our cars and headed to the Detroit Institute of Arts. We viewed the exhibit Rembrandt: The Faces of Jesus.

A Reflection

My overall experience was one of being in the inner circle, witnessing a great mystery. As an African American, I’ve started to say that if I were a Jew I would be insulted to hear: a dollar changes hands in the Jewish community two to three times before it leaves; the Jews were oppressed: why can’t you Blacks and Indians get it together; and, they worked me like a Hebrew slave. I’d be insulted for people to act as if they knew me and didn’t understand my highest values. I didn’t hear any preaching; didn’t see any waiting for G-d’s salvation; and, didn’t see any passing of money. The congregants’ relation to the Big Scroll, and the collective reading of it, was at the heart of the community I participated with behind the Red Door.

None of the cultural cliques address what I took away with my experience of crossing a cultural line and my participating the best I could in the service and the meal. Literacy, a common focus and fellowship, are the best foods ever.

YOUR TURN
Share a cross- cultural experience that you have had in the Detroit Area. Use the Reply Area below


Robert Cooper is a world traveler and cultural experience enthusiast who initiated a Japanese language program in Detroit Public Schools after living abroad and participating in a study abroad program with Huston Smith. He is the president of the Association for Youth Empowerment and serves on the Leadership Team for the Bridging 8 Mile initiative. He is also a coach and leader at Landmark Education.

 

 

On 8 Mile by Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

On 8 Mile

People drive by in their sedans and minivans,

segregated and separated,

listening to the symphony of disruption that they consider to be their lives,

inescapably tethered to it by their blue tooth headsets.

They zoom by curbside cemetaries without blinking.

They look over into the cars next to them and see their own reflection,

So they see no one

0n 8 Mile

Teenagers walk home from school.

Laughing and talking without a care in the world.

The world knows that the odds are against them,

Their brown skin housing a history that has only begun to be revealed to them

Like a memory that they’ve always known and felt, but have somehow forgotten.

On 8 Mile

People beaten blue-black bask at bus stops, sometimes striding in Blues rhythm,

hiding hope in their pockets because like Gil Scott it’s been Winter in America since they dismounted the slave ships,

So the hope they hide is the flame that keeps them warm in this blizzard even when they forget it’s there.

On 8 Mile

Some of the people holding cardboard signs may be on some of your favorite Motown songs.

On 8 Mile

There are spots of coney islands and liquor stores, like spots on a dalmation.

On 8 Mile

Corey took me to the  end of the earth, where 8 mile ended, past the street lights where in endless black I watched where lake saint Claire coughed up the moon

On 8 Mile

Dream cruisers sit in lawn chairs watching vitinage camaro’s fly by like they’re equipped with wings.

They see a lone Delorean on the street and wonder if John has returned with Michael J Fox in passenger seat, in the back seat Christopher Lloyd over-exaggerating in a lab coat

On 8 Mile

While in the seventh grade my heart was racing as I took Adrien into the alley behind her back yard,

I asked her to close her eyes… when she did, I sheepishly planted a kiss on her cheek and experienced heaven at the age of eleven

On 8 Mile

Right now someone is standing at an overpass on 75

watching cars frantically weave in and out of traffic,

rushing because of being trapped in their reality of life being drastic.

They take a deep breath and remember Black Bottom.

 On 8 Mile

My grandfather hopped a trolley down Woodward to Northern High school where my grandmother cruised past her classmate Smokey Robinson to him, to take his hand, to create a family, this future

On 8 Mile

In the 1950s my late uncle Clyde ventured into pool halls that he was too young to enter

and listened to stories from men who took to the streets to survive,

doing whatever they could to stay afloat

because sinking does more than make you sea sick,

they saw themselves holding up future generations of their families like Atlas,

above the flood, it’s only a natural disaster in the ghetto

On 8 Mile

Inside Baker’s Lounge fingertips dance over ebony and ivory keys while a voice is crying out.

We call it entertainment,

when we vicariously sit and witness

the victory of the spirit over the limitations of our own humanity

 On 8 Mile

There’s a wall that still stands today

that used to separate whites from blacks.

My own eyes have washed over it.

Since  before 1967 we’ve  erected this wall in our minds

cemented on the bedrock of our fears…

the future that we’re living into imprisoned for years,

a wall more fierce than berlin because you continue to carry it,

Suburban families refuse to return because of the fear of theft and violence, and

Urban people don’t venture past the township for fear of sirens, and bruises from the badge and baton

On 8 Mile

On a Saturday afternoon, men, women, and children gather in representation of a movement that breaks the stereotypes of fear, apathy, violence, and neglect.

They are breaking bread and breaking the cycle,

shaking hands and dancing and reuniting.

Because the past is not “just the way it is”

Because history is not our story

Because we have built pyramids and the model T

So we make a declaration right now to build our future here together

Because shifting the collective mindset of an entire region is a monumental task worthy of the people next to you right now.

Because we realize there’s truly nothing that separates us…

no black, no white, no republicans, no democrats, and no independents

And Because

it has been much too long

I guess we should build a bridge…

On 8 Mile.

Steve Johnson is an educator and entrepreneur born and raised in Detroit. He has been a published poet since his late teens and has experience in video/film production. During his college years at Wayne State University, he coupled his passion for the arts with his devotion  for helping people and began a journey in entrepreneurship. He currently has a company that promotes Urban Ballroom dancing on an international scale and is building others.